In a pre-tour “pop-up” set at Manhattan’s Comedy Cellar last night, comic Aziz Ansari addressed last year’s sexual misconduct allegations that the Netflix Master of None creator says left him “really upset and humiliated and embarrassed.”
In an account of the show posted today on Vulture, Ansari broached the topic seemingly for the first time on stage. “There were times I felt really upset and humiliated and embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible this person felt this way,” Ansari said, according to Vulture’s Jesse David Fox, who described the comic’s voice as “wavering.”
“But you know, after a year, how I feel about it is, I hope it was a step forward,” Ansari said. “It made me think about a lot, and I hope I’ve become a better person.”
The allegations were made in a January 2018 article posted on the website Babe. The article’s author, Katie Way, wrote a reported account of a 23-year-old woman who said she’d been coerced by Ansari into having sex following a dinner date. The post drew widely varying responses, from the it-was-just-a-bad-date reactions to sexual misconduct.
Ansari kept a low profile for most of last year before announcing in November that he’d launch a 30-plus city comedy tour in spring 2019.
Monday’s performance in the Comedy Cellar’s 200-seat Village Underground room was a sort of sneak peek at the tour (attendees were required to keep their cellphones in increasingly ubiquitous Yondr pouches, preventing video leaks). Vulture gave the following account:
Ansari introduced the subject with an anecdote about being approached by a fan in New York, who mistook him for Hasan Minhaj: “‘Oh, no, Aziz, right?’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Master of None!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Parks and Rec!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Treat yourself!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘And you had the whole thing come out last year — sexual misconduct?’ No, no, no, no, no, no, that’s Hasan!”
After that, Ansari “sat down, and his voice turned somber.” The comic said he hasn’t spoken much about the “whole thing” for two reasons: He needed time to think about what to say, and, secondly, “it’s a terrifying thing to talk about.” Recalling a friend’s comment that Ansari’s situation made him rethink every date he’s been on, Ansari said, “If that has made not just me but other guys think about this, and just be more thoughtful and aware and willing to go that extra mile, and make sure someone else is comfortable in that moment, that’s a good thing.”
Ansari, Vulture wrote, said he feared his career was over. “There was a moment where I was scared that I’d never be able to do this again.” Now, he said, when he thanks the audience at the end of performances, “I really mean it. I mean it on a different level.”